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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Pioneers of Language Planning          455

VOLAPUK

The first constructed language which human beings actually spoke,
read, wrote, and printed was Vclapuk (1880) Its inventor was Johann
Martin Schleyer, a German catholic pnest, zealous alike in the cause of
world-trade and universal brotheihood Hence his motto Alenade bal
puki bal (For one humanity one language) According to his disciples,
he knew an amazing number of tongues. If so, he benefited little
from his learning It was evidently a handicap It prevented him
from understanding the difficulties of Volapuk for less gifted linguists
The new medium spread very rapidly, first in German}, then IB
France, where it found an able apostle in Auguste Kerckhoffs, pro-
fessor of Modern Languages at the Paris High School for Commercial
Studies There was a French Association for the propagation of Vola-
puk, there were courses in it—and diplomas Maybe with an eye on the
annual turnover, a famous departmental store, Les Grands Magasins du
PnntempS} also espoused the cause Success in France encouraged
others, especially in the United States By 1889, the year of its apogee,
Volapuk had about 200,000 adherents, two dozen publications, sup-
ported by 300 societies and clubs Enthusiastic amateurs were not the
only people who embraced the new faith Academically trained linguists
also flirted with it.
Volapuk petered out much faster than it spread When its partisans
had flocked together in Paris for the third Congress in 1889, the com-
mittee had decided to conduct the proceedings exclusively in the new
language This light-hearted decision, which exposed the inherent
difficulties of learning it or using it, was its death-knell A year later
the movement was m full disintegration What precipitated collapse
was a family quarrel Father Schleyer had constructed the grammar of
his proprietary product with the redundant embellishments of his own
highly inflected language Professor Kerckhoffs, supported by most of
the active Volapukists, spoke up for the plain man and called for
reduction of the frills In the dispute which ensued, Schleyer took the
line that Volapuk was his private property. As such, no one could
amend it without his consent
It is impossible to explain the amazing though short-lived success of
Volapuk in terms of its intrinsic merits There was a monstrous naivete
in the design of it A short analysis of its sounds, grammar, and vocabu-
lary suffices to expose its retreat in the natural line of linguistic pro-
gress Part of the comedy is that Schleyer had the nerve to claim that